|Theatrical poster for ANGER OF THE DEAD (2015) - image source: October Coast|
Italian B-movie horror stages a questionable comeback, aided by the controversial and prolific, Vancouver-based, German horror-thriller filmmaker Uwe Boll, as Italian writer-director Francesco Picone releases his first feature-length film, "Anger of the Dead" (2015).
Background and Credits
The film premiered in February 2015 at the Granite Planet International Film Festival in Canada. After screening in several other festivals and releasing in several markets in theaters and on DVD, it was released in the USA by Uncork’d Entertainment in January of this year. It had a brief run in theaters in NY and LA before moving to VOD.
In a world ravaged by a virus that turns people into cannibals, a pregnant woman (Alice) manages to survive after enduring the loss of her daughter and husband. In the company of two male strangers, Alice (Roberta Sparta) strives to reach an island untouched by the plague. Meanwhile, a dangerously sadistic military officer, Rooker (Aaron Stielstra), is on the trail of his mysterious female victim, the Prisoner (Désirée Giorgetti). When Alice encounters them on the road, she realizes that the infected are not the biggest and only threat to her survival.
|A "fast" zombie in ANGER OF THE DEAD (2015) - image source: October Coast|
The market for zombie horror films is at this point oversaturated, so it would take a very fresh approach to capture the imagination of its now-jaded fans. To his credit, Picone wisely chose to use "fast" zombies, which ups the ante in terms of the threat they pose to the humans who must try to survive their attacks.
Picone's zombies are effectively rendered, using a combination of good special FX makeup and visual effects. These zombies are the source of enough blood, gore, and destruction to satisfy many grueheads and gorehounds, making the world of the film a believable post-apocalyptic environment, albeit not a particularly innovative one in the zombie subgenre.
The film also deserves kudos for its female characters. Although a male character is front and center in the poster above, this film is all about strong women dealing with a disastrous situation that surrounds them with threats to their survival. These threats emerge from conflict that is as much male versus female as human versus zombie.
|Stephen (Marius Bizau) and Alice (Roberta Sparta) in "Anger of the Dead" (2015) - image source: Vimeo|
Alice (Sparta) develops a positive, trusting, and mutually supportive love relationship with a man named Stephen (Marius Bizau) after she loses her husband to the zombie apocalypse. However, this bond does not survive the aggression of the sadistically misogynistic alpha males of the film's world. Alice learns that she cannot rely on any man (no matter how sincere and strong he might appear) to be an effective survival partner.
All the men in the film, whether they are nice guys or villains, want to be the dominant partner in a relationship with a woman. However, this dominance suppresses the women's own power by making them passive and reactive. When she loses the support of her new man, Alice realizes that she is (and always had been) strong enough to survive on her own.
|Désirée Giorgetti as the Prisoner in "Anger of the Dead" (2015) - image source: The Hollywood Reporter|
Her model of female power is the Prisoner (Giorgetti), the other major female character. She becomes decisive in the outcome of the film after she survives being used as an object of sadistic medical experimentation and brutal rape as a prisoner of the military alpha males, led by Rooker (Stielstra). Besides her silent, steely mental attitude, the Prisoner has special qualities (the reason that Rooker locks her up in the ironically-named "Refuge") that render her immune from zombie attack.
Despite the female liberation that occurs over the course of the second and third acts, the ending of "Anger of the Dead" does not provide a clear victory for strong women. In doing so, however, it sets up an opportunity for a sequel, as the story is not yet over. It's an open question, though, whether the film will generate enough viewer interest to warrant a follow-up.
That's because the film is marred by slow pacing, intermittently weak dialogue, and too many scenes taken up by emotion-laden conversations between survivors (which cause the film to get bogged down in melodrama). Things would have been less tedious with more scenes devoted to horror action and physical conflict, both among the humans and between humans and zombies. Those that did make it into the film are very good.
Thus, the main problem with this film appears to be in its editing during post-production (which also makes sorting out the two major storylines difficult until they finally converge). The production itself is good, with capable (but not stellar) acting from the cast, good cinematography, and thoughtful attention to detail in production design, special effects makeup, and visual effects.
It's easy to see what enticed Boll to sign on as a producer of this film. It has a low-budget, B-movie horror vibe that includes a touch of the classic Italian Giallo film, especially in its voyeuristically eroticized brutality towards women and its ruthless refusal to provide a happy ending. However, clearly visible editorial problems mar the enjoyment of watching it. Let's chalk that up to rookie mistakes on the part of Picone, who edited his own film.
Nevertheless, horror fans should still keep this Italian writer-director on their radar screens. If Uwe Boll senses potential in Picone, there might be better things to come from him in the future. Moreover, wouldn't it be cool to see a renaissance in Italian horror filmmaking?
At present, "Anger of the Dead" is currently available for viewing on iTunes.
TFK's Rating (on IMDb): 4 out of 10 stars
Disclosure: October Coast provided TFK with access to an online screener of the film (and related press kit materials) for review purposes only. This website and its author received no monetary compensation for this review.